A fence-line contrast reveals effects of heavy grazing on plant diversity and community composition in Namaqualand, South Africa
Publication Year:
Changes in plant species richness and community composition were investigated across a fence separating heavily grazed communal and lightly grazed commercial farming systems in Namaqualand, South Africa. No significant differences in plant species richness between communal and commercial farming systems were detected either locally within individual plots or overall across all plots. Within-plot, richness of species tolerant of grazing, such as annuals and geophytes, has increased, while the richness of large palatable shrub species has decreased on the communal rangeland. In terms of plant cover, species' responses to grazing were strongly associated with growth form. Annuals and geophytes formed the majority of grazing increasers, while large, presumably palatable, shrubs and leaf succulents were characteristic grazing decreasers. An investigation into population processes of five shrub species revealed that heavy grazing on the communal rangeland has resulted in: reduced size of palatable shrub species; reduced flower production and seedling recruitment of palatable species; increased density and recruitment of the unpalatable shrub, Galenia africana. Reductions in shrub volume, reproductive output and seedling recruitment were most marked in the palatable shrub Osteospermum sinuatum and were in the order of 90%. The results are further discussed in terms of their relevance to rangeland dynamics and the current land use practices of the region. Keywords: Communal rangelands, Desertification, Overgrazing, Succulent Karoo.
Publication Title:
Plant Ecology
Item Type:
Journal Article